While Vermonters are rightfully shocked by the release of radioactivity from the damaged Japanese reactors, let’s not forget that Vermont Yankee (VY) has already leaked – and may be continuing to leak – radioactive material into Vermont’s groundwater — your groundwater.
Groundwater provides 67 percent of Vermonters with their drinking water. And groundwater was declared a public trust resource with the signing of the Groundwater Protection Act of 2008 (GWPA). That means it belongs to all Vermonters, no matter where it is located. Under your land or my land, groundwater belongs to all of us.
A recent Vermont Environmental Court decision regarding a Rutland County mineral processing operation’s discharge into groundwater is the first major case to test the new law. The decision, in “re Omya Solid Waste Facility,” strongly reinforces the contention that the discharges at VY are illegal. The decision states: “Groundwater must therefore be managed as a public trust resource with regard to the quality of groundwater as well as with regard to quantity.”
Thus, the first significant court interpretation of the GWPA confirms the position that, like OMYA, VY has contaminated the groundwater and has violated the public trust.